Summer is the season every mom looks forward to for one simple reason. It's the time we get to use our three favorite, magical little words — that's "go play outside," of course — and our kids are actually happy to listen. Between backyard play sessions, sports practices and games, and days at the pool and the beach, kids spend so much of Summer outside, which is a wonderful reality on those perfect, humidity-free days where temperatures hover in the 70s and low 80s, but it's not so fantastic when the heat index rises to 90 and above.
Moms need to be aware of two major issues that can be incredibly dangerous for kids on the hottest days: dehydration and heat illnesses, including heat cramps, exhaustion, and stroke. Because of their body compositions, kids are at even greater risk for these scary side effects than adults. Here's what you need to know, what to watch for, and how to react if you're afraid your child might be suffering from from a heat-related sickness.
- How to prevent it: Make sure your kids drink cool water before and during the time they're outside. Send them to any outdoor practice or game hydrated, then make sure they take regular breaks to drink fluids, even if they say they aren't thirsty. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a good-size drink for a child is five ounces of water for a child weighing 88 pounds and nine ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds. Also, before your child is going to spend an extended amount of time outside in the heat — say for Summer camp or sports practice — get them acclimatized by spending time outdoors regularly beforehand.
- Risk factors: Extended exposure to high temperatures, direct sunlight, and high humidity without enough rest and fluids.
- Signs of dehydration: Early signs of dehydration include thirst, dry tongue and lips, fatigue, and feeling extremely hot. Tell your kids that if they wait to drink until they feel thirsty, they're already dehydrated.
- How to treat it: Rest and plenty of fluids are vital for preventing dehydration from escalating to a more serous heat-related illness.
- Signs of heat cramps: Painful cramps of the stomach muscles, arms, or legs.
- Signs of heat exhaustion: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, muscle pain, and occasionally unconsciousness.
- Signs of heat stroke: A temperature of 104 degrees or higher, nausea, vomiting, seizures, disorientation, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, and coma.
- How to treat it: Get your child out of the sun into a cool, comfortable place. Have them drink plenty of cool fluids and take off any excess layers of clothing or bulky equipment. You can also put cool, wet cloths on overheated skin, and for heat cramps, try gentle stretching for the sore muscles. If your child has heat exhaustion, do not allow them back in the hot sun on the same day. Monitor your child, and if you don't see improvement, see a doctor. If you're concerned your child is suffering from heat stroke, immediate medical attention is a must.
If you are unsure as to whether your child is suffering from any of the above, please contact your pediatrician.